Discover historic Solovetsky Monastery and explore natural attractions of the Solovki Archipelago.

The Solovetsky Islands, also known as Solovki are located in the western part of the White Sea, less than 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. The largest island of the archipelago is Bolshoy Solovetsky Island; others include Anzersky Island, Bolshaya & Malaya Muksalma islands, Bolshoy & Maly Zayatsky islands.

Solovetsky Islands attractions

Monastery

Founded in the first half of the 15th century, the Solovetsky Monastery is the main attraction of the archipelago. Made of huge boulders, walls of the fortress encircle monastery churches, domestic quarters and workshops.

Solovki village

A lot of historic sites have been preserved on the territory of the village, for example, the “Herring hut” - a house of fishermen, a water dock, a monastery’s hydro-power station, a monastery pier, chapels, a bath-house built with boulders, tar works and a cellar.

Sekirnaya Hill

The 11-km long bumpy dirt road leads from the village to the Sekirnaya. Once you arrive, you will see a 77.5-meter high hill with the lighthouse-church of the Holy Ascension (1862) on its top. Next to the church stands the building of the Ascension Skete. During the times of GULAG, the islands’ most severe punishment cells were located in the church and in the skete. In the memory of people executed there the Commemoration Cross was later erected at the foot of the hill.

Bolshoy Zayatsky Island

A bearded seal on the island of Zayatsky

This island is located southwest of the Bolshoy Solovetsky Island. Attractions of Zayatsky include the 18th-century St. Andrew's Church, prehistoric labyrinths and Russia's first stone dock harbor.
The tundra landscape of the island is very picturesque. Bearded and ringed seals occasionally visit Zayatsky island and there are plenty of seabirds to look out for. For many travellers, a 3-hour boat tour to Zayatsky is a highlight of visiting the Solovetsky Islands.

Botanical Garden & Makary Hermitage

Established in 1822 by Archimandrite Makary, the Hermitage is located in 4 km to the north of the village. Its attractions include a two-storey wooden house with a mezzanine that was built in a typical Russian design in 1862, a chapel of 1854 and a boulder cellar of 1899. The Botanical Garden around the house has hundreds of plant species, including those planted by monks in 1870-1920 and Gulag inmates in 1927-36.

Bolshaya Muksalma Island

During the times of the monastery, monks kept cattle and horses on this island. In the 19th century they built a dam to make transportation faster and safer. Being one kilometre long and up to 6 metres wide, this boulder dam is picturesque and worth exploring on foot or by boat.

GULAG museum

The exhibition of the museum is devoted to the period of 1920-39, when Solovetsky Camp of Special Purpose and Prison of Special Purpose functioned. Solovetsky GULAG museum is housed in a former barrack of 1929.

Stone of the Negotiations

It was put on the south-western coast of the island in memory of the successful defence against British ships during the Crimean War. A skirmish between Solovki island garrison and two 14-gun wooden-hulled screw sloops HMS “Brisk” and HMS “Miranda” took place in July 1854. In summer 1855, on the talks with Archimandrite Alexander the commander of the Anglo-French squadron demanded food supplies but gained no success.

The Belugas Cape

The cape is located to the north-west of the village, not far from Sekirnaya Hill. Starting from the end of June till the beginning of August it is possible to watch beluga white whales thriving in the wild near this cape.

Lakes and canals

There are hundreds of lakes on the island. In the 16th Century, monks started to connect some of the lakes with canals and to use this water route for cargo transportation. Nowadays, rowing boat trips on the canals are available in the summer season.

Solovki History

The habitation of the White Sea coast began in the 12-13th centuries when fishermen, hunters and all kinds of outlaws from Novgorod settled down in this area. Monks were the next to come and brought Orthodox Christianity to the pagan tribes living in the area.

Local inhabitants new about islands in the sea, and told about them to the old monk whose name was Savvaty. In 1429, Savvaty with his mate German reached the Solovetsky Islands and settled there in a small tent.

Savvaty and German were later respected as the pioneers on the Islands, but it were not them who established the monastery. A man by name of Zosima, being a son of rich parents, decided to devote his life to monkery and handed out all his property to the poor. Zosima and a team of his followers landed on Solovki in 1436 and established a monastery.

Until to the middle of the 16th century Solovetsky Monastery was alike other small-sized monasteries in the north. In 1549, the Monastery got a new leader Fillip, who was an energetic and outstanding person. Under his leadership, the Monastery started building stone temples, roads and canals.

Being under continuous attacks from Swedish squads, the Monastery played an important role in the defense of the northern frontiers of the Rus’. In 1582-1594, a big boulder fortress was erected on Solovki. Nowadays, it is one of the major attractions of the archipelago.

In the middle of the 17th century, the Monastery's political and moral influence on Russian life became very strong. The Monastery authorities started to resist the religious reforms of the Russian Church supported by Tzar. Peace negotiations gave no results and Tzar sent army forces to punish the rebels. It was time of the famous "Solovetsky siege" (1668-1676). The strong and well equipped army managed to capture the Monastery only with the help of a traitor in January 1676. The punishment was cruel and many monks were killed. Some sources claim that blood was not spilled during the execution.

HMS Brisk and HMS Miranda firing at the Monastery on Solovetsky Island

Another military attack took place in 1854. It was the time of the Crimean War. On 6th of July 1854, two British 14-gun wooden-hulled screw sloops HMS Brisk and HMS Miranda approached the Island. A skirmish started. The ships made many shoots at the monastery, but cannonballs did not cause any significant damage and human casualties, so the British had to leave.

From the early days of its history, criminals and heretics had been taken to Solovki for punishment. In 1923, an infamous SLON, or Solovetsky Camp of Special Purpose, was set up. Hundreds of thousands prisoners were kept on the Island. They suffered badly and many of them died. The camp and the prison were closed in the 1939.

Since 1965, the restoration works in the Solovetsky Kremlin has been going on. Solovetsky museum was opened in 1974.

Questions & Answers

How to get to the Solovetsky Islands?

You can get to Solovki by boat from Kem and by plane or helicopter from Arkhangelsk.

Ferry from Kem

As of 2021, boat from Kem (port of Rabocheostrovsk) is the only reliable option of getting to Solovki by sea. Usually, there are two daily departures in the summer time:
MS "Vassily Kosyakov" Kem 08:00 - 10:00 Solovetsky 19:00 - 21:00 Kem
MS "Metel" Kem 12:30 - 14:30 Solovetsky 16:00 - 18:00 Kem

From late August till mid September there is one boat a day:
MS "Vassily Kosyakov" Kem 08:00 - 10:00 Solovetsky 17:00 - 19:00 Kem

In case of heavy storm boats between Kem and Solovetsky can be delayed or cancelled.

Plane from Arkhangelsk

In summer 2021, there were five flights a week from Vyaskovo airport in Arkhangelsk to Solovki, on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday:
Arkhangelsk 13:00 – 13:55 Solovetsky 14:30 – 15:25 Arkhangelsk

The "2nd Arkhangelsk United Aviation Division" carries out the flights using L-410 short-range aircrafts.

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